Jun 5

In Case of Emergency

“Scene’s hot!” yelled the police officer. I steadied my hand as I knew the gunfire would start soon. The first crack of the blank made me wince. “Drop your weapon! Get on the ground!”

Not every day at Sabo PR requires a neon orange vest and safety glasses, but today’s accoutrement came courtesy of Kentwood’s Police Department. My co-worker, T.J., stood by in a black ski mask, goggles and safety gear. “How cool was that?” he asked setting the camera down after the suspect had been handled.

Last Wednesday, T.J. and I had the opportunity to watch the Kentwood Police and Fire Department train for an active shooter scenario. The gun shots, shooter and stand-bys had all been a part of the training Kentwood’s law enforcement undergoes to prepare them in case of real active shooter.

A week prior we had scouted the training location – the now empty Sears building at Woodland Mall – and talked with the officers about the types of live gunman scenarios they would be practicing and how it would test officer’s ability to address the threat and victims.

As we explored the vast expanse of warehouses and office corridors, I was struck by the training officer’s anticipation of the training. “We pride ourselves on how frequently we train our officers in active shooting,” said Sgt. Nicole Dalziel. These police officers thrived on training, in preparing for the “could happens” and becoming familiar with the unknown.

The gunman and victims were addressed in the same fashion despite the changing scenarios.  This is what you want in your police officers: you want them to be prepared for the worst and to be able to consistently execute their training no matter the environment.

Strangely enough, you want the same of your crisis PR team.

The team you send in to handle a worst-case-scenario PR situation should be practiced and adept at homing in on what needs attention. When someone experiences a data breach, employee malfeasance or on the other side of an ill-timed tweet, it’s important to find a PR team who can cut through the din of concerns and questions, isolate the issue and help you through the chaos.

Since I joined SPR a few months ago, we have handled dozens of crises – and before the year is out, I suspect that number will be well more than on 100. Level headed and agile, we’re pros at targeting and taking out the threat while minimizing damage. We’ve been trained for this.

The active shooter training made for an exciting morning, and I walked away with a greater respect for the Kentwood Police and Fire Department. While the scenario felt like an episode of “Inside the FBI,” should a real threat arise, I know they are well prepared to take on any problem.

Special thanks to the Kentwood Police and Fire Departments for letting T.J. and I tag along, Capt. Bryan Litwin for inviting us to take a peek behind the curtain and Woodland Mall for providing space to train in.


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